Adobe Illustrator - The Pen Tool

This guide will show you how to use the pen tool to draw effective vector paths.


To Draw With the Pen Tool:

Straight Lines:

  1. Select the Pen tool.
  2. Position the Pen tool where the straight segment should begin, and click to define the first anchor point. The first segment drawn will not be visible until a second anchor point is made to create a line. Also, if direction lines appear.
  3. Click again where you want the segment to end (Shift-click to constrain the angle of the segment to a multiple of 45°).
  4. Continue clicking to set anchor points for additional straight segments.      
  5. Complete the path by doing one of the following:
    1. To close the path, position the Pen tool over the first (hollow) anchor point. A small circle appears next to the Pen tool pointer  when it is positioned correctly. Click or drag to close the path.
    2. To leave the path open, Ctrl-click (Windows) or Command-click (Mac OS) anywhere away from all objects.


Create a curve by adding an anchor point where a curve changes direction, and dragging the direction lines that shape the curve. The length and slope of the direction lines determine the shape of the curve. Be aware that using too many points can introduce unwanted bumps in a curve. Instead, draw widely spaced anchor points, and practice shaping curves by adjusting the length and angles of the direction lines.
  1. Select the Pen tool.
  2. Position the Pen tool where you want the curve to begin, and hold down the mouse button.
  3. The first anchor point appears, and the Pen tool pointer changes to an arrowhead. 
  4. Drag to set the slope of the curve segment, and then release the mouse button.
  5. In general, extend the direction line about one third of the distance to the next anchor point planned. Hold down the Shift key to constrain the tool to multiples of 45°. 
  6. Position the Pen tool where the curve segment is to end, and do one of the following:
    • To create a C‑shaped curve, drag in a direction opposite to the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.

    • To create an S‑shaped curve, drag in the same direction as the previous direction line. Then release the mouse button.

  7. Continue dragging the Pen tool from different locations to create a series of smooth curves. Note that this is placing anchor points at the beginning and end of each curve, not at the tip of the curve.
  8. Alt-drag (Windows) or Option-drag (Mac OS) direction lines to break out the direction lines of an anchor point.
  9. Complete the path by doing one of the following the same as a strait path.

If you need further assistance please contact the Information Technology Help Desk at 920-424-3020 or